I’m a huge horror fan, and out of the dozens of horror films I watch a month, first time writer-director Sean Bryne’s The Loved Ones stands head and bloody toes above most that I’ve seen for a long time. And as a horror fan this is exactly the kind of film I’m always looking out for, something completely original, bloody as hell, and constantly throwing surprises your way. Oh yeah, and it’s completely and utterly insane, and I mean that in the best sort of way. This movie cranks the crazy up to 11 and never looks back.
Besides owing a lot to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Carrie, The Loved Ones has to have one of the most ingenious and flat out entertaining screenplays to have come out of Australia for some time. Brent (Xavier Samuel) is a teenager coping with the death of his father after a bizarre road accident which placed him at the wheel. Cut to six months later and he is still overwhelmed by emotional grief. With the school formal looming, he doesn’t feel too much like attending but reluctantly agrees to go along with his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). Unfortunately for him, Lola (Robin McLeavy), a fellow attendee at his school who has harboured an unhealthy crush on him, has a different idea in store. With the help of her father (John Brumpton), they kidnap and drag him back to their secluded property to celebrate their own twisted formal celebrations. Needless to say, much blood is spilt along the way. To say any more would ruin the surprises and the fun The Loved Ones has in store. It’s the kind of film which you’re better off walking into with as little knowledge about it as possible.
The film is split into two different segments. The first comprises of Brent suffering horribly at the hands of the psychotic Lola and her equally insane father, while the other portion follows Brent’s friend Sac attending the formal with the way out of his league Mia (Jessica McNamee). It’s a strange mix but actually works remarkably well with the former section offering relentless brutality mixed with some very black humour while the latter plays as a straight-out comedy, allowing us to catch our breath — at least for a moment anyway.
As already briefly mentioned, this movie is brutal, really brutal. Although no matter how gruesome and messed up it gets, it never fails to throw a surprise laugh into the mix, even during some of the most outright fucked up scenes. Agood portion of the violence happens just out of shot, although the film still allows you to see and hear just enough to have you squirming.
Xavier Samuel is great as the lead and it’s no wonder he pulled from obscurity to star in the next Twilight film. He easily portrays a realistic depiction of a troubled teenager dealing with the loss of his father which he feels responsible for. He’s completely believable and you genuinely feel for him once he’s in Lola’s sadistic hands. Speaking of which, with the occasional moment of slight overacting aside, Robin McLeavy is fantastic as the bat-shit crazy Lola. I know this sounds bad, but I can’t remember the last time I wanted to see a female character die more than her, and that’s a compliment! She even manages to bring a touch of sympathy to what’s otherwise a totally off-the-wall character.
John Brumpton is equally crazy as Lola’s father. He’s less of a humourous character and more of a stone-cold killer who will go to terrifying lengths to make his daughter happy.
The rest of the cast is equally competent. Richard Wilson is hilarious as Brent’s stoner pal Sac, while Victoria Thaine brings some genuine emotion as Brent’s girlfriend Holly who has to endure his sudden disappearance.
I really could not recommend this movie more. Just writing about it gets me all hyped up for seeing it all over again. If you’re a horror fan, then you’ve struck gold. If you’re not a horror fan, whatever, see it anyway!
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